Seal swims 50 miles from North Sea to River Swale near Thirsk

Image source, Karen Hargreave
Image caption,
Karen Hargreave photographed the adult common seal basking on a riverbank at Topcliffe Weir, near Thirsk

A seal has swum 50 miles inland from the sea to the River Swale near Thirsk.

The animal, thought to be a healthy adult common seal, has been spotted bobbing in the water and basking on a North Yorkshire bank at Topcliffe Weir.

Experts said it was unusual to see the animal travel "so far up the river" to catch fish and cited the recent heavy rainfall for his surprise appearance.

Walker Karen Hargreave said she was "extremely surprised" to catch a glimpse of the harbour seal.

Image source, Topcliffe Weir community group
Image caption,
Experts believe the recent rainfall enabled the seal to swim up river where it has stayed "because of the food source"

Mrs Hargreave, who lives in the nearby village of Asenby, said: "I've lived here for 30-odd years and we've never had anything like this in the river.

"It was directly on the opposite bank. He hauled himself out and sat there, having a good snooze.

"He looks like he's really happy."

Image source, Karen Hargreave
Image caption,
The common or harbour seal was first spotted in the area last week
Image source, Karen Hargreave
Image caption,
Wildlife rescuer Krista Langley said the animal had divided the community because "there are anglers who are concerned over fish stocks in the river"

Krista Langley, who runs a wildlife rescue centre in Thirsk, said her team were called out to the animal at Topcliffe Weir on Thursday but there were no injuries to the seal.

She said seals had been spotted in local rivers in the past but this sighting was "unusual because it had come out of the river to rest".

Todd German, from the Sea Life Centre in Scarborough, said: "I suspect it's come up the river because of the recent heavy rainfall and it's staying there [in the River Swale] because of the food source."

Mr German said the high river levels meant it was easier for the seal and fish to "swim freely".

"The fact that he's staying there and looking well, must mean he's feeding well.

"There's no real need to relocate or move it because it looks like it's in good health."

Image source, North Yorkshire Police
Image caption,
Experts and animal enthusiasts hope the seal makes its own way back out to sea

But the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said it was planning to rescue the 5ft-long animal and take it back to sea next week.

Julia Cable, from the BDML, said: "We have a very large net to catch the seal but the river levels are too high so we can't use it now."

Mr German added: "It'd rather see the animal disappear down the river by itself. He's found his way up there, let's hope he makes his way back."

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